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Review: The Lost City of Z

April 21, 2017

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

Based on the fascinating true story of Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), The Lost City of Z compellingly centres its narrative around the three expeditions that the British army colonel turned explorer took into the Amazon between 1906 and 1925.

Although the expeditions were initially being funded for colonialist purposes involving the rubber trade, Percy Fawcett brought back valuable evidence of a lost civilization in the region known as Amazonia, that was way more advanced than anyone deemed possible at the time.

This discovery was initially met with reluctance and ridicule from the scientific communities, who viewed indigenous populations as “savages” and seem terrified of having their beliefs proven wrong, prompting him to become increasingly determined to complete his research into finding the remnants of this lost city, despite increasing dangers posed by the trips.

Directed by indie auteur James Gray, working on an impressively larger scale than ever before, The Lost City of Z does an excellent job of recreating its world of a century ago, with a style that also calls to mind the great American films of the 1960s and ’70s, with some echoes of classics like Lawrence of Arabia and Apocalypse Now.  Darius Khondji’s gorgeous cinematography further draws us in, giving the film the feeling of an epic, even in more intimate character moments.

Charlie Hunnam impressively carries the film with one of his best performances, embracing the role of a man increasingly consumed by the idea of finding this lost city, even at the expense of everything else in his life.  Sienna Miller does fine work as the wife who wants to join him on the expeditions, but is told that a woman wouldn’t be able to handle it, and is left to raise the kids at home.

Tom Holland is also excellent, entering the picture partway through as their teenage son who initially resents the fact that his father is always away but comes to share his thirst for adventure, delivering several standout scenes.  The cast is rounded out by Robert Pattinson, who delivers a solid and nicely understated supporting role as a fellow explorer.

This is a piece of classical filmmaking, steeped in the grandeur of exploring uncharted territories, but also grounded in its exploration of the characters and what their discoveries mean for the world as a whole.  This is an absorbing, beautifully filmed and sometimes haunting piece of work that will surely stand the test of time, and one that I already look forward to revisiting.

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